Saturday, October 22, 2005


If Andrew Schelling were to do nothing but write and publish notebooks I would be more than satisfied. The notebooks are wonderful, processual journeys which emerge incrementally as the author moves through experience, through the day to day. Two Elk follows much the same loose form as his earlier notebook THE ROAD TO OCOSINGO, moving freely between fragmented bits of prose, verse, letters, recorded dreams, quotes & observations. Schelling himself explains lucidly in his preface:

During autumn of 2003 I kept a high country journal which I eventually named Two Elk after the creek that lies in an adjacent drainage to Vail ski resort's Category III expansion. My project in the notebooks was to document excursions into Colorado's high altitude terrain. These formidable peaks & high valleys--with their low oxygen, scant moisture, intense sunlight, scouring winds, & tough ice--have been my kindest, toughest, & sturdiest teachers the fourteen years I've lived among them. Hence the notebook entries became songs, prayers, and poems of devotion.

Schelling's grasp on the craggy, rugged Colorado wilderness around him is shaped by an impressive knowledge of world literatures, a keen awareness of his position in relation to the totality of the surrounding world. Vedic goddesses, T'ang poets, Scotch sailors & an assortment of others inhabit & inform Schelling's perception of time & space from his point of reference in the foothills of the Colorado Rockies.

At the very core of the work, however, is a deeply-seated understanding of the environment at large, the Earth, as a transient & ecologically delicate thing which must be cherished and preserved. In determining a source of heat for he & his daughter Althea, his decision is ecologically informed:

Harvest days. The gathering of the year. The stacking of fruit & firewood. This year I will take heat only from wood, coal-bed methane extraction being such a disaster. The buried seams crack under pressure, the retort like an earthquake, and noxious gas enters the water table.

Just as the earth is delicate, the same holds true for the human body. It is the transience and fragility of life which we are most aware of in times of adversity, in the cold, & Schelling believes it is this which lies at the center of all things human, of love & of the work which emerges from love:

Late autumn is for melancholy. A fragrance of wet leaf mould stirred with fermenting apples. I have a body that evolved in the Pleistocene & want to burrow under the covers. This is the season for love.